By: Francette Phal

Chapter One

It was on occasions like these that Eden realized how very little she mattered to her husband. He never failed to remind her of her status in their marriage, whether it was with his remarks, that have only grown nastier over the years, or the reproachful looks, that seemed to carve across her flesh like a whip. Like now for instance, she could feel that piercing stare from across the room, the distinct bite of his scorn putting her instantly on alert. She hadn’t really done anything in the last few minutes to warrant the reaction, but then again, Dominic Armstrong didn’t need much to set him off these days. She sighed resignedly, daring to look away fully knowing that he would discipline her for this unknown reason later. Eden grabbed a champagne flute from the tray of a passing waiter before escaping to the veranda for some much needed air. They were up in the Grafton Highlands, at another dull event that he’d dragged her to, because he wanted to flaunt her to his equally wealthy friends.

He’d made their roles distinctively clear from the beginning, and she’d gone along with it because she’d needed the protection of his name and the money that went along with it. She had been one eviction notice away from homelessness, and he’d done it to, “keep her from ruining his younger brother’s life,” as he’d put it. Lucas Armstrong had been a good customer of Eden’s; coming to Crazy Pussy for a good year before he’d proposed marriage. But then his big, bad brother, the head of the Armstrong family, had gotten wind of his errant brother’s ridiculous idea and had marched in to shut the whole thing down. Once he’d seen to bully his brother back to college where he belonged, threatening his inheritance if he refused to cooperate, Dominic had zeroed in on Eden. He’d stalked the club for a good month after that, always sitting in that wingback chair in the front row, his predatory gaze watching her every night she’d performed. He’d frightened her to the core, big and boorish as he’d been, waiting patiently, artfully manipulating every aspect of Eden’s life until she’d come to him.

Since he’d wanted her badly enough, he’d grudgingly agreed to her one condition: marriage. Mistresses were expendable, wives were a little harder to dispose of, and Eden had been armed with at least that little knowledge. He’d given her a day before finally coming to her with his own terms. It’d been overwhelming; the legalese of the documents he’d presented with his attorney had all been a jumble to her. Logic had warned her not to sign the papers before having a lawyer look them over, but she’d been blinded by the seven-carat diamond ring he’d presented her with. Their wedding had been a quiet affair with little frill, and the honeymoon had been on a private island on the Mediterranean Sea. Twenty-three to his thirty-five, Dominic Armstrong, media mogul and one of Fortune 500’s top five wealthiest people, had paid quite handsomely to possess her, to own every inch of her, a fact he rarely forgot to remind her. He was the bread winner, the Alpha dog with a type A personality, and Eden was tasked to do simply two things: be the arm candy in public and a whore in bed.

He made sure he stirred a response from her each and every time he fucked her, and while he tended to be quite cruel when the mood stuck him, he received a sick fascination from hearing her beg for more. But Eden never protested, never complained in the face of his oftentimes sadistic streaks. She was the dutiful, obedient wife who lived a lavishly luxurious life, and in exchange, he could damn well treat her however he wanted. In comparison to the squalor she’d grown up in and the poverty she and her single mother had faced, Eden would say that her marriage to Dominic was a small price to pay.

She downed the champagne in one go and set the flute on the balustrade. She peered down just below into the nothingness and silently mused whether the darkness would catch her if she plummeted. Giving into a sudden bout of inanity, Eden slipped out of the four inch heels that had cost a small fortune and lifted herself up on the ledge. She bit her bottom lip to keep her smile at bay as she spread out her arms and closed her eyes. Fear was not an emotion she felt here, it was simply the darkness around her and the summer breeze caressing her skin. Exhilaration swept through her, the wind making her feel like she was flying. In that moment she was free. Freedom enveloped her on all sides and took her away from everything. Up here she was nothing and everything all at once. She opened her eyes and looked down into the abyss, facing her mortality. Laughter burbled up from the pits of her stomach and escaped on the wind.

“Don’t jump.” The unexpected sound of that voice shattered through Eden’s introspection, startling her completely. She wavered, her body teetering towards the precipice and her heart racing, now for a completely different reason as real fear poured like ice water into her veins. She was going to fall, she thought inanely, but then… she wasn’t. Instead, she was forcefully yanked backwards by an unyielding manacle of flesh around her waist. Eden landed unceremoniously on top of her rescuer in complete disarray, stunned at what had almost been her death.